Rare Juggling Books (Part 2)

As I mentioned in part 1 of this short, 2 part series, the three major categories of juggling books are instructional books, historical / biographical books, and routine books (comedy, messages, patter, performance tips). I previously discussed six rare instructional books, including some that are now online. Now I’d like to discuss some hard to find historical, biographical, and routine books.




4,000 Years of Juggling

The holy grail of juggling history books is the two volume set, 4,000 Years of Juggling by Karl-Heinz Ziethen. Released in 1981, it contains a vast amount of information and an incredible number of photographs. While the books are notorious for their lack of indexing and less than ideal arrangement of topics between the two volumes, the fact that Ziethen almost single-handedly preserved much of juggling history prior to the internet age makes any faults easily forgiven. There was a very limited run of the books, so they are quite rare and sought after. As a result, when a set does occasionally come up for sale, it’s not uncommon for the asking or selling price to top $1,000.00. Despite my decades of interest in juggling history, I didn’t have the set until last year, when I traded a Van Wyck club and some other items for a slightly water damaged extra set owned by Erik Aberg!

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There have long been rumors or announcements that an updated and better organized version of 4,000 Years of Juggling would be produced, but that still remains only a future possibility. Fortunately, Ziethen and co-writers followed up the set with the more widely available Juggling: The Art and Its Artists, Die Kunst Der Jonglerie, and Virtuosos of Juggling. (I even have an extra, brand new copy of Juggling: The Art and Its Artists sitting on my shelf.) While these books contain great information and pictures, they still fall short of the vastness of 4,000 Years of Juggling.


Juggling: Its History and Greatest Performers

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While 4,000 Years of Juggling tended to be quite European-focused regarding performers, Juggling: Its History and Greatest Performers by Francisco Alvarez is more balanced in coverage between European and North American jugglers. Alvarez, a long time performer during the middle of the twentieth century, was also a talented artist and filled his book with illustrations of jugglers rather than actual photographs. While this book is not nearly as detailed as Ziethen’s opus, it does contain great information, wonderful illustrations, a brief – but interesting – chronology of famous jugglers, and a wonderful reading list of earlier publications on juggling.

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Hard copies of Juggling: Its History and Greatest Performers are quite rare, but fortunately Alvarez was kind enough to allow a digital copy of it to be placed online in 1997. You can read this wonderful work by clicking here.


America and Europe’s Greatest Jugglers


America and Europe’s Greatest Jugglers by Edward Van Wyck was published in 1900. It was given out to customers of Van Wyck, the first retail manufacturer of juggling props, as well as to booking agents that might hire the jugglers within. Many of these performers were represented by Van Wyck. The book contains pictures and advertisements featuring Van Wyck’s most famous clients of the time. It gives modern readers a rare glimpse into the juggling world at the turn of the century. It contains pictures of well known jugglers Ollie Young, Willam Everhart, Darmody, and Van Wyck himself, who used the stage name of Eddie Evans, as well as many lesser-known performers.





It closes with an advertisement for Van Wyck’s juggling clubs.


This book is extremely rare. It’s the only book mentioned in these two articles that I’ve never held in my hands. However, it is online and can be viewed by clicking here.


Jugglers Galore


Another juggling history book that few jugglers have is Paul Bachman’s recent publication, Jugglers Galore: Vaudeville To The Internet. It’s a hardcover pictorial collection with many never-before-published photos. You can read my review of the book and learn how to order it by clicking here. Paul is also expected to have copies for sale in the History Lounge at the 2014 IJA Festival.




Biographies or autobiographies have been written about quite a number of jugglers, including Enrico Rastelli, Bob Bramson, W.C. Fields, Dieter Tasso, Kris Kremo, and others. Two of the more rare juggler biographies are about the men who originated Gentleman juggling and Hoop rolling / hoop juggling.

Michael Kara: König der Jongleure – Jongleur der Könige

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Michael Kara: König der Jongleure – Jongleur der Könige by Hermann Sagemüller is a very well researched book published in 1973. The book is in German and contains many wonderful photographs of the famous Gentleman juggler. For non-German readers, an English translation was available at one time. I was fortunate enough to get both the German book and the English translation last year. Sagemüller is one of the greatest juggling historians and collectors in the world and his knowledge and research is quite evident in this volume.

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Facts, Fame, and Fortune: The Autobiography of William Everhart

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Published in 1904, Facts, Fame, and Fortune is equal parts autobiography, promotional material, and vanity piece. While it includes a lot of great information about Everhart’s early life and his creation of the art of hoop juggling and rolling, the author’s continual boasting is almost comical to a modern reader. As a historian, I very much wish that Everhart had included dates with the many events he describes, including his many engagements all over Europe and the USA. The book contains many great pictures that help the reader to understand the intricacies of the tricks Everhart created.

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An original copy of this book is extremely rare, but once again, we are afforded the opportunity to read and view it online by clicking here.




A more recent type of juggling book could be called routine books, which include comedy, patter, messages, and similar content. Most of these are widely available. The only such book I’m aware of that is rare falls into a genre that most jugglers are unaware of: Christian juggling books! There have been ten books written providing routines that share a Christian message. I’ve written three such books myself. One Christian juggling book is extremely rare.  The Juggle Book: Basic Juggling with Gospel Applications by Arne Dixon and Dick Gruber was published in 1988 by the Fun Factory Express. I’m only aware of one original copy still in existence, as are the authors. The volume shown below was copied from that original, which belongs to juggler Gary Luber,  with the authors’ permission.

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There are hundreds of books written on the subject of juggling, so I’ve only touched on a dozen or so of the most rare and interesting ones. If you want to see most of the books mentioned in this series and many others, please visit the Juggling History Lounge at the 2014 IJA Festival. The Lounge will feature props from many of the greatest jugglers in history, numerous other rare and unique props, a juggling library, and hundreds of photographs, all from my collection. I hope to see you there.

David Cain is a professional juggler, juggling historian, and the owner of the world's only juggling museum, the Museum of Juggling History. He is a Guinness world record holder and 15 time IJA gold medalist. In addition to his juggling pursuits, David is a successful composer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and singer as well as the author of twenty-six books. He and his children live in Middletown, OH (USA).

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